Could Your Workout Routine Contribute To Hearing Loss?

Positive active senior fit woman wearing wireless headphones doing arm stretching, warming up muscles before jogging or outdoor workout, mature female exercising outside in city park in morning

By Diane Nens, Audiologist and Senior Clinical Director, UnitedHealthcare Hearing

When you’re turning up the effort on your fitness routines, be cautious about how high you turn up the volume on your workout playlist.

That’s because nearly 50% of people 12–35 years old — roughly 1.1 billion people worldwide — are at risk of hearing loss due to prolonged and excessive exposure to loud sounds, including music pumped through personal audio devices.

It’s important to know you can develop hearing loss before you even notice the problem. Once it occurs, you can’t reverse it and treatment becomes the best option. However, in many cases, noise-induced hearing loss can be prevented.

Consider these tips that may help protect your hearing health during workouts and beyond:

1. Follow the 60–60 rule for listening

Headphones and earbuds can produce sounds up to 110 decibels, which is equivalent to the blare of a live rock concert. At that level, hearing loss can occur after only a few minutes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To help reduce your risk, consider following the 60–60 rule when using headphones, including earbuds. That means limiting listening to 60 minutes a day at just 60% of the device’s maximum volume. In some cases, you can set this as a custom limit.

2. Understand risks with earbuds

Earbuds typically sit deeper in the ear canal than traditional headphones and may put hearing follicles at greater risk of damage from loud sounds. As an alternative, consider using larger noise-cancelling headphones that rest over the ear instead of directly in it. This increases the distance between your eardrums and the audio and may help to reduce the risk of damage.

When opting for earbuds, consider selecting ones with noise-cancelling properties, which may enable you to keep the volume lower.

Beginning Feb. 2, a new program enables people enrolled in eligible UnitedHealthcare employer-sponsored and individual medical plans to save up to $55 on wireless, noise-cancelling earbuds. Details about the discount become available after completing an online hearing test

3. Exercise without music

While working out and music may seem like they go hand in hand, sometimes there may be advantages to turning off the workout playlist. In fact, quiet time may offer benefits for both your mind and body, such as:

·        Lower blood pressure

·        Decreased heart rate

·        Steadied breathing

·        Reduced muscle tension

·        Increased focus and cognition

Consider turning off the music so you can focus on your form or take in the benefits of nature if you’re exercising outdoors.

Beyond the workout

Whether it’s music or the general sounds of life, the louder a sound is, and the longer you are exposed to it, the more likely it will damage your hearing. Avoid noisy places whenever possible and protect your ears when you can’t. Consider using over-the-counter foam ear plugs or ones that can be custom molded to protect your hearing at concerts, sports games and other loud venues.

Additionally, while there’s no specific food that can prevent hearing loss, a balanced diet may play a role in your overall hearing health. Researchers have found that foods rich in potassium, zinc and folic acid — such as bananas, almonds and spinach — may help maintain your hearing health as you age.

If you suspect you may have hearing loss, consider using a free online hearing test to determine if care and treatment may be necessary.

For eligible UnitedHealthcare members, treatment options include custom-programmed hearing aids available through an in-person appointment with a licensed hearing health professional and a new virtual program, with convenient remote access to care. Both options offer potential savings of 50% or more on custom-programmed hearing aids compared to traditional models.1

For more information about how to help protect your hearing, visit